Stories of Nigerian women trafficked to Italy under the pretence that they will be working as nannies or in factories – but often end up working the streets as prostitutes – get messier by the day.
Their plight has been highlighted by Paris-based photographer Elena Perlino, originally from Italy, who began to notice the presence of young African women working on the streets during her commutes from Turin.
She said: “I decided to start from this surreal vision to tell a story. I have been working on the topic for several years, focusing mainly on the Italian connection.”
Many have scars on her body due to vicious fighting with colleagues working as prostitutes while others have daily run-in with clients.
Perlino reveals that many Nigerian women come to Italy hoping to make enough money from honest work as nannies or factory workers to support their families back home, but are tricked by traffickers into working in the sex trade.
Traffickers demand on average more than 50,000 euros (US $60,000) for travel expenses and accommodation, with the women having to work as prostitutes until their debts are paid off.
Many are taken to police stations because often found on the street without a passport
Eighty per cent of women trafficked to Italy come from Benin City, Edo State, in south Nigeria.
The photographer explained: “My work attempts to show a complex phenomenon that crosses Italy from North to South.
“This involves many cities including Turin, Milan, Genoa, Rome, Naples and Palermo and thousands of Nigerian and Italian people.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime declared Nigeria among the top eight countries with the highest human trafficking rates in the world.
In March this year, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) said it convicted 47 people for child trafficking-related offences in Edo and Delta States.
NAPTIP Zonal Commander, Cordelia Ebiringa, said 56 cases were being investigated, and added that 700 girls trafficked had been reintegrated, while 1,400 other victims had passed through the agency’s shelter.
She said that human trafficking is a social problem that needs collaboration among partners to fight.
The commander said that the agency had been sensitising the public on the ills of human trafficking, and stressed the need for the youth to change their attitude toward materialism.
According to her, the get-rich-quick syndrome in the society is a major factor driving the Nigerian youths out of the country.
She added that the situation had made such youth easy prey to human traffickers.
Ms. Ebiringa said the traffickers visit the country mainly in December to lure innocent and unsuspecting youth into getting non-existing jobs in Europe.